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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Internal Paper Cites Army Looting Cases

An internal document circulated by the Interior Ministry in Chechnya acknowledges that soldiers have engaged in looting and outrages against the civilian population and says one unit "besmirched the honor" of the armed forces.

The document, obtained by The Moscow Times and the organization Human Rights Watch in western Chechnya, is an appeal by "the Military Council of the internal forces of the Interior Ministry" to its own soldiers.

While praising the soldiers for their "highest courage and heroism," the document says: "As well as this, however, cases of looting, extortion and outrages committed by servicemen against the peaceful population have begun to appear recently."

The Russian authorities have so far admitted only to isolated instances of outrages in Chechnya.

In Geneva, meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Commission heard a statement expressing unprecedented criticism of Russia for its actions in Chechnya, AP reported.

The statement, expressing "deep concern over the disproportionate use of force by the Russian armed forces," marked the first time a permanent member of the UN security Council ever submitted to a formal criticism from the panel. Such a "chairman's statement" has to have the agreement of the criticized country to be read aloud.

Stanislav Gaveto, the deputy chief military prosecutor in Grozny told Interfax Friday that his office had opened seven criminal cases against soldiers. Earlier in the month, Justice Minister Valentin Kovalyov denied there had been any looting in Chechnya.

The Interior Ministry appeal earlier this month called on soldiers to refrain immediately from the "disgrace" of looting. It reminded them of a code of behavior under which soldiers must fight only armed opponents, attack only "military targets," and "spare civilians."

The appeal said punitive measures will be taken against anyone caught looting and declares: "These very measures are being employed against a group of soldiers from military unit 3709, which committed crimes and besmirched the honor and dignity of the internal forces."

The unit concerned was most likely stationed in the western Chechen village of Assinovskaya, on the border with Ingushetia.

Human Rights Watch, the Washington-based human rights group, released a report Friday that singled out Assinovskaya as the location for particularly flagrant abuses against civilians.

The researchers quoted the account of one witness, identified as Mustafa T., who said soldiers fired into his house for more than 12 hours with incendiary bullets while he and his family were inside. When Russian neighbor Vasily Talichev went to complain about this, soldiers came into his house and killed him in his bed.